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Dr. Alonna Norberg reads from her diary while giving testimony during the trial of Dr. Jon Norberg on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, at the Cass County District Courthouse in Fargo. (Forum Communications)

Psychiatrist in Norberg rape trial says wife's credibility 'very low'

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FARGO - The wife of a Fargo surgeon accused of drugging and sexually assaulting her has a history of attention-seeking and making up symptoms for physical ailments she doesn't have, a psychiatrist testified this morning.

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"Her credibility's very low," defense witness Dr. Harjinder Virdee said about Alonna Norberg in the trial of her husband, orthopedic surgeon Jon Norberg.

Virdee said she spent 100 to 150 hours sorting through "boxes and boxes" of Alonna Norberg's medical records "that were all over the place."

Virdee said she found a total of 15 psychiatric diagnoses for Alonna Norberg, including depressive, anxiety and pain disorders; dependence on opioid drugs; and obsessive-compulsive, histrionic and narcissistic personality traits.

Her evaluation included a 4½-hour interview with Alonna Norberg, which she said is about three times longer than a typical interview. Most sexual abuse victims don't want to go into detail about what happened to them, but Alonna Norberg "volunteered everything" about her sexual assault allegations, Virdee said.

"In my 35 years of practice as a doctor, this way of spontaneous, meticulously detailed graphic details that she gave is inconsistent with a sexually abused person I have seen," she said.

Virdee diagnosed Alonna Norberg with somatization disorder, in which the patient has symptoms that can't be explained with a medical exam or lab tests. The patient is convinced something is physically wrong with him or her and won't accept a psychiatric explanation, Virdee said.

"They cannot believe that it's attributable to a mental disorder," she said. "They'll usually tell you, 'There's nothing wrong with my head and I'm not coming to see you.' "

Virdee also diagnosed Alonna Norberg with the related factitious disorder, which is different in that the patient intentionally produces the symptoms.

"They just want somebody to come and help them," Virdee said.

Alonna Norberg's status as a physician - she stopped practicing in 2008 and is now on Social Security disability, according to testimony earlier in the trial - helped her convince doctors that something was physically wrong with her, even though "hundreds of tests were negative," Virdee testified.

"She was a healthy person, but she was on medications," she said. "She was on 20, 30, 40, 50 - never less than 20 medications. Different dosages, different times of the day. I don't know how she did take 50 medications. In my 35 years of practice, I have never seen a patient on 50 medications."

Previous psychiatric evaluations, including one at Sierra Tucson, a treatment center in Arizona that Alonna Norberg attended in early 2009, found she had manipulative and attention-seeking personality traits, Virdee said.

"You have to manipulate all the doctors to think that you've got a disorder," she said.

Alonna Norberg has said she allowed her husband to inject her with the powerful sedative Diprivan three times to alleviate her pain from Sjogren's syndrome, a rare immune system disorder, and to help her sleep. But she claims she told him to stop using the drug when she found out Diprivan was the brand name for propofol.

He's accused of drugging her with propofol the night of June 16-17, 2011, and sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious.

Virdee said she found "no immunodeficiency" in Alonna Norberg's records and questioned whether she may have been infecting herself, noting Alonna Norberg's infection from a Caesarian section lasted six months.

Virdee referred to one medical record on which 24 diagnoses were listed and Alonna Norberg had added seven more diagnoses.

"It's almost like she's proud of it," Virdee said.

Virdee's testimony will continue this afternoon on the eighth day of testimony.

Friends of the couple and a coworker of Jon Norberg also testified this morning.

Jon Norberg is charged with gross sexual imposition, a Class AA felony punishable by up to life in prison upon conviction. He also faces a Class C felony reckless endangerment charge carrying a maximum penalty of five years.

Though The Forum does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual assaults, Alonna Norberg consented to be named to contest her husband's claims that she gave him permission to use propofol on her and that he never sexually abused her.

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